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On thursday
the 11th of July 2019, the Estonian foreign policy institute, international
center for defence and security and Konrad Adenauer shifting were organizing a
conference about the book Post Crimea
shift in EU-Russia relations: from fostering interdependence to managing
vulnerabilities.
The authors of the book are Kristi Raik & Andras Rácz.

The
introduction words were pronounced by
Rein Rammsaar,
the Estonian representative of the Political and security
Committee of the European Union and by Hardy
Ostry,
Head of office of the Konrad Adenauer stiftung.

They said
the shift on Crimea is still relevant in the analysis of today’s politics.
Moreover, they explained that the European Union (EU) now has a better
understanding of how to deal with this question. After the Crimea crisis,
collective efforts were done thanks to the involvement of the different
European institutions. Under this perspective, the Crimea crisis  is a significant event when analysing both
the European common response to a political crisis and the EU-Russia
relationship on the international stage.

During the
conference, each of the speakers explained the key features of the chapters
they wrote in the book. 

Kristi Rain, Senior Fellow at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute,
ICDS.

The first
speaker was Kristi Rain, Senior Fellow at the Estonian Foreign Policy
Institute. She explained that she decided to write about this topic because
there was a need to establish deeper discussions on the EU-Russian relations
and to analyze the concrete consequences of the Crimea crisis.

From the
European point of view, she explained that the situation is encouraging because
there is a unity on sanctions and because an agreement on five principles on
EU-Russia relations was established. This means that the EU stands with
credibility against Russian external policy. It is even more impressive since,
before the Crimea crisis, the EU position on Ukraine was debated and brought a
lot of frustration.

Then, she
explained that the crisis underlined EU-Russia of political interdependence.
She mentioned that the current EU-Russia policy was inspired by the former
German-EU « ostpolitik », which means that the relationship is based on
peace-building, using economic engagement to promote stability.

On the Russian
side, she argues that there is a the prioritization of security issues over
economic rationality, which is shown by the annexation of Crimea despite the
threat of European sanctions. She said that there is a need to take a new look
at the interdependence between the EU and Russia.

However, the
EU-Russia relation is not a positive interdependence. Economic interactions can
contribute to stability but are not sufficient. Other elements, such as a
common normative basis are needed. The EU depends on Russian energy, whereas
the Russian financial sector is dependent on the West and is still vulnerable.
In the absence of common normative expectation, the interdependence brings more
tensions than peaceful interactions. She emphasized the strategic competition between
the EU and Russia, qualifying it as a normative competition, with Russia being
unsatisfied with the security order that the EU is attempting to establish.

The European
approaches towards Russia are focusing on the democratization of this country.
However it has very limited possibilities to influence their domestic system.

On the
Russian side, the accent is put on the supposed failure of liberal democracy
model.

The EU and
Russia are depending on each other in five distinct fields: energy, trade,
financial sector, defence industry and cross-border cooperation. For both EU
and Russia, the goal is to decrease vulnerabilities and reduce dependencies.
Nonetheless, Kristi Rain said that in certain fields the EU-Russia relation was
less of an interdependence and more of an asymmetric relation.

She also
described some sectoral developments, where there is cooperation between the EU
and Russia.

About trade, there is a limited interdependence except for the energy sector in which there are still strong ties responsible for tensions. On this issue, the EU is weakened by the member states’ bilateral pursuit of national energy interests that diverge from a shared EU energy policy.

On the field
of defence industry, the links have been severely reduced due to political
confrontation and sanctions. Russia is therefore focusing on autarky.

Finally, on
cross-border cooperation, the crisis had a negative impact with the rise of
political tensions, but it remains a useful instrument in building practical
cooperation.

The
consequences of the Crimea crisis were disastrous for the Russian industrial
sector, namely because of the European sanctions. For instance, Russia needs
Western technological import and is now suffering from not having access to
Ukrainian and European defence industries. Concerning the financial sector, the
Western sanctions have also highlighted Russia’s vulnerability and led Russia
to make some effort to reduce its dependency.

Andras Racz, non-resident fellow of the Estonian Foreign policy
institute, ICDS and Associate professor at the Pázmány Peter catholic
university, Budapest.

Andras Racz
explained that there is still an interdependence between the EU and Russia and
that, five years after the Crimea crisis, some conclusions can be drawn. He
wrote two particular chapters of the book, the first one being about the cross
border cooperation between Russia and the EU and the second one being about
police cooperation.

On police
cooperation he said the implemented policy was relatively efficient since it
has proven to be operative in some cases. However, it still suffers from serious
deficiencies.

On
cross-border cooperation, his views are even more nuanced, he said that not all
the projects failed but that few of them only succeeded thanks to some Russians
supporters who have an influence over cross border cooperation projects.

Then, Andras
Racz mentioned the chapter about trade interdependence. In all the other
sectors, he said that the EU-Russia relation shouldn’t be qualified as
interdependence but as an asymmetry. In fact, the EU is more important to
Russia than Russia is to the EU in the trade sector -except in the crucial
energical sector.

He explained
that the difficulties come from the differences in expectations between the EU
and Russia. According to him, the EU should diversify and reduce its dependency
on particular countries and roads. The EU has to adapt because, he said, Russia
is not going to change.

James Sherr, senior fellow of the Estonian Foreign Policy

James Sherr
explained his chapter: Russia’s views on
interdependence, the security dimension
. According to him, the West failed
to anticipate the political development of Russia. James Sherr said that,
during the second half of the 90’s, when Putin came in power, Russia increased
its distinctive interests. Russia can also influence elsewhere than in the former
Soviet Union.

In addition,
according to the dominant school of thought in Russia, the Western approach is
a threat, a danger to the Russian government credibility. He explains in his
chapter that before the events of Crimea, there was a promotion of the western
democracy toward a enlargement with NATO and the EU. The EU is a project of
integration, of promotion of rules, norms, values, and democracy. Its normative
power which promoting a liberal model can be seen as a serious threat for
Putin’s autocratic power from a Russian perspective.

Rein Rammsaar, Estonian representative to the Political and security
committee of the European Union, Ministry of foreign affairs in Estonia

Rein
Rammsaar explained that his chapter focuses mainly on what the EU did since
2014 to reduce vulnerability by building resilience- meaning: the ability to
recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

In this
perspective of resilience building, Rein Rammsaar explained the significant
steps taken by the EU in three areas which are hybrid responses, cyber
responses and strategic communication.

He also
mentioned the constant Russian criticism towards the EU. He explained that, in
response, the EU should do much more collectively, but that the member states
should also increase their efforts individually. As an example of poor response
capacities from the EU he used the recent problem on cybersecurity when the
Russian intelligence penetrated EU institutions. Rein Rammsaar emphasised the fact that
the war in Ukraine and Crimea accelerated the erosion of the relationship
between Russia and the EU. In addition, in his chapter, he reaffirms the
existence of a pragmatic shift in European external policy. For him, this
reflects the evolution of the European global strategy. Finally, Rein Rammsaar
concluded by saying that the priority fort both Russia and the European states
should be to increase resilience.

Then, a question was asked about the place for values and international law in EU approaches to Russia ?

The answer
to this question was that the EU already managed to impose coherent sanctions
to Russia. However, there is a pressure to improve the application of EU
principles, especially since there is no new united  « Ostpolitik » vis-a-vis Russia. Russia has
its proper concept of threats, experience, history. Nevertheless, if the EU is
alone, it is hard to maintain its position. The EU is not doing bad, it has to
adapt and adjust and doing so should bring the EU more success. The aim is now
to extend the coherence between member states’ sanctions in order to have a
global political attitude toward Russia.

Public
concerns were also directed toward the
Russian power of systemic corruption inside the EU
. For the experts, this
power is real, and it is clear that some Russian officials enjoy using it. The
will for changing this situation does come only from the European side, Russia
having no interest in changing its behaviour. It appear as a necessity for the
EU to focus on sanctions on corrupted individuals in order to increase the cost
of corruption and build a real disincentive policy.

L’article Conference “Post-Crimea shift in EU-Russia Relations” – 11th July 2019 est apparu en premier sur Le portail de référence pour l'espace de liberté, sécurité et justice.

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